DefinitionLead is a toxic metal that is common in the environment. Experts believe that no level of lead in the body is safe for children. Concern about lead poisoning in children occurs when lead reaches a level of 10 mcg/dL in the blood. Levels of 20 mcg/dL or more represent actual lead poisoning. This can lead to:
CausesLead can be absorbed into the bloodstream by eating, drinking, or breathing contaminated particles.Lead is used in many industrial processes and within the home. It can be found in:
- Drinking water
Risk FactorsChildren who are 6 and younger are at increased risk for lead poisoning. Factors that increase your child's risk for lead poisoning include:
- Ingesting non-food items, also known as pica—a behavior in most young children and some children with neurodevelopmental disorders
- Living in a house or apartment built before 1960
- Living in neighborhoods where homes were built before 1960
- Living in a home with adults whose work or hobbies put them in contact with lead
- Receiving transfusions from adults who have relatively high lead levels in the blood. This is a special risk for small infants receiving newborn intensive care.
- Being born to a mother who has high levels of lead stored in her bones. Pregnancy often causes this lead to move from the bones to the bloodstream. It may cross the placenta and affect a developing baby.
- Breast milk may also contain lead. Nursing mothers who live in houses with lead hazards may transmit lead to their babies through breastfeeding .
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